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Wrongful Death

Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys

Flowers

Losing a loved one is always painful. However, the devastation is often magnified when it is due to another party’s negligence or wrongful actions. An unexpected wrongful death can permanently alter the lives of those close to the deceased, including emotionally and financially. 

If you lost someone close to you due to wrongful death, you have a right to receive compensation for both economic and non-economic damages, including the following:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills
  • Property loss
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral and burial costs

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death can occur when a victim dies due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or otherwise wrongful actions. Wrongful death usually occurs suddenly, which can be incredibly traumatic for the victim’s loved ones. 

Examples of acts that can lead to wrongful death include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Car accidents, including DUI incidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Drowning
  • Nursing home negligence
  • Medical malpractice
  • Police negligence
  • Assault and battery
  • Murder/manslaughter
  • Elder abuse and/or neglect
  • Child abuse and/or neglect

In short, a wrongful death means the victim’s life was cut short due to someone else’s preventable and wrongful actions.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death can occur under many different circumstances, but all involve a preventable mistake. The most common causes of wrongful death are:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Traffic accidents, including car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, account for the most significant amount of wrongful deaths. Speeding, reckless driving, dangerous or distracted driving, and DUIs are all leading causes of wrongful death. 

Medical Malpractice and Negligence

Medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death when a doctor provides an inaccurate diagnosis, leading to a patient’s condition worsening or failing to identify a condition altogether. For example, a doctor who fails to diagnose a patient with cancer correctly may ultimately cause their wrongful death. Wrongful death can also occur due to a medical practitioner’s negligence, such as administering the wrong medication or an improper dose. 

Workplace Accidents 

Workplace incidents, including slip and fall accidents, are among the most common causes of wrongful death. Wrongful death in the workplace can also occur due to defective products or equipment or exposure to harmful substances like asbestos. 

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Under California law, the bereaved survivors of a wrongful death victim may bring about a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court to receive compensation for their financial and emotional losses. Wrongful death claims are separate from any criminal charges against the party responsible for the victim’s death.

If a defective product causes a loved one’s death, the victim’s family members may be able to sue under strict liability

In some cases, family members may be barred from bringing a wrongful death claim. For example, some activities carry an assumption of risk. In this case, a wrongful death lawsuit may not be possible. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Only close survivors of a victim can file a claim for wrongful death. This typically means immediate family, such as the decedent’s surviving partners and children. 

Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, the following people are the most entitled to bring forward a wrongful death claim:

  • The Victim’s Spouse: As the surviving spouse, you will likely be entitled to most economic and non-economic damages. 
  • The Victim’s Children: If you are the biological or adopted child of the deceased, you are entitled to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. If you are the victim’s stepchild, you may also be entitled to compensation if you can prove you were financially dependent on the victim. In addition, any minor who lived with the decedent for at least 180 days prior to their death may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased was responsible for at least half of the minor’s financial support. 
  • The Victim’s Parents: Parents of the deceased may be able to file a wrongful death claim to receive damages only if their child was a minor at their time of death or was an adult but had no descendants.  
  • Other Heirs: If the victim has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, another family member may be considered an heir. If the victim died without a valid will in place, another person might be chosen to legally and logically inherit the deceased’s property. 

Multiple people can bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit. A victim’s heirs can file a wrongful death claim jointly or separately.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California

The statute of limitations in California for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. In the case of a survival action, the decedent’s estate has two years to file a claim from: 

  • The date of the injury, or 
  • Six months after the death

There are some uncommon exceptions to the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. For example, if a victim’s cause of death is not identified until much later, the victim’s family may be given more time to file a wrongful death lawsuit, with the time frame beginning the day the wrongful act came to light.

In the case of the government or a government employee causing wrongful death, the victim’s family has six months to sue, and any claim filed after six months will be dismissed. 

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death victim’s surviving family members are typically entitled to bring forward a wrongful death claim based on negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, or an intentional wrongful act.

A successful wrongful death case needs to prove the following:

  • the death of an individual
  • that the individual’s death was caused by the defendant’s negligence or reckless actions 
  • that the victim’s family members have suffered emotionally and financially

If the plaintiff can provide enough evidence to convince the jury that the negligent act and the cause of death are related, the claims will be considered more likely to be true than not, and the plaintiff will recover damages. 

What Compensation Can I Receive From a Wrongful Death Claim?

If you lost someone in a wrongful death situation, you should be able to recover losses for the emotional and financial support you would have received from the victim had they not lost their life.

Economic damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death suit include:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of future earnings of the victim
  • Financial support the decedent would have provided for their family throughout their lifetime
  • Loss of benefits or gifts the decedent could have reasonably provided their family members had they not lost their life

Non-economic damages that might be recovered in a wrongful death suit include:

  • Protection
  • Affection and companionship
  • Moral and emotional support
  • Sexual relations
  • Training and guidance

In rare cases, surviving family members may recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. Punitive damages are typically only available if the deceased was killed because of a felony homicide for which the defendant was already convicted.

Power Trial Lawyers is Here to Help

If you lost a loved one to wrongful death, our attorneys can help you recover compensation for the losses you’ve suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, and the love, companionship, and comfort your loved one provided. We’ll take care of the complicated legal work, so you can spend time grieving with those closest to you. Contact our Los Angeles office for a free consultation to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim. 

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